Sports

Pavelle: Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2022 Mock Draft (Final Version)

My earlier mocks explored different ways the Steelers could approach this draft. This one is different. It’s my best effort to predict what will actually happen, not what could happen or what I would like to happen.

PICK 1:20 – QUARTERBACK MALIK WILLIS, LIBERTY

Cue uproar. Calm down folks, I really did think this through. Let’s organize the discussion around three questions: Should it happen? Would it happen? And could it happen? That should cover all the objections.

The ‘should it happen?’ goes to whether he is worthy of the pick. On that one I defer to our Depot film watchers and others. I wrote an entire article just a few days ago to remind people of all the question marks about each of the top five QB prospects. But I also emphasized just how much there is to like about all of them. I normally shy away from boom or bust prospects in Round 1, and also from guys who need a year or three before they might see the field. Willis gets both of those red flags. But in the end, I see it as an example of why Quarterback get measured on a different scale. The “boom” of a hit is exponentially high, which can justify a gamble that I would not support for any other position. So yes: if he is available, I’d have no problem with the pick.

The ‘would it happen’ goes to a factor that people have been glossing over: Kevin Colbert’s pending retirement.

Look at the human dynamics of the situation. GM’s live and die with their team’s success, and success is intimately tied to whether you have the right QB. The two will rise and fall together, like it or not. So what kind of jagoff would saddle his incoming successor with a QB that the successor didn’t help to pick? Does that fit your image of Kevin Colbert’s character? Obviously not.

Yes, things are a little different with the Pittsburgh Steelers. We root for the most stable team in all of sports, and a lot of that comes from an owner who is deeply and personally involved in the management of his team. Art Rooney’s character plays into this too, and Rooney is not the sort of [ahem] who would hold Colbert’s mistake against another man. In fact, Rooney is the sort of owner who would openly reject any public outcry to do so. Thus an incoming Steelers GM will have more insulation in place than his counterpart on any other team. But come on! He’d still be forced to deal with the hue and cry of a failed Quarterback; he’d get (and deserve) no credit for a success;  he’d lose the fan base forever if he tried to point a finger of blame back at Colbert; and it wouldn’t be much better if he ducked, dodged, and refused to answer the questions. The team’s culture and owner matter, but they are not enough, imho, to justify a Round 1 QB pick by an outgoing GM.

But there is another Pittsburgh-specific factor that might change that balance: the stability and character of one Michael Pettaway Tomlin. Tomlin has the gravitas to truly insulate an incoming GM. “Leave [Name] alone. He wasn’t even here. I pushed Kevin to make that pick, so aim any blame at me and no one else.” That would do it. But how many men have the honor and class to make that statement? How many would you trust in advance to make it later on, knowing how the bright NFL lights can cause so many turnarounds? How many head coaches would you trust, especially in light of the annual career-death carousel we see on the news each year?

Call me a fanboy if you must, but I have Mike Tomlin on that very short list. And that is enough to change my outcome. Malik Willis should be the pick by grade if he is there, and the pick would be viable so long as (i) he really is Mike Tomlin’s guy, and also (ii) Kevin Colbert likes him too. This pick is, after all, Colbert’s outgoing monument.

That brings us to the ‘could it happen’ part. Is there any possible way that Malik Willis could fall all the way to Pick 1:20? My answer is a resounding, “Yes.” In fact I’d put the odds at somewhere around 50/50.

I count seven teams ahead of Pittsburgh in the draft who might be interested in a Quarterback:

  • Pick #6, the Carolina Panthers. The Carolina coaching staff needs to win now, or they’re headed out the door; and their starting QB will be Sam Darnold, which cannot make anyone comfortable. But which Quarterback in this class would make a real difference for that team in 2022? Certainly not Malik Willis, who will be nothing but a burden until 2023 at the soonest, and probably 2024. Kenny Pickett? The next Andy Dalton may well be better than Darnold, but will he be better enough in Year 1 to save any jobs? Probably not. The Jags would get more bang for the short term buck by filling existing voids with a top edge rusher, OT, or maybe one of the special talents like Devin Lloyd or Kyle Hamilton. I would actually be kind of stunned if Carolina pulled the trigger on a Quarterback given that situation.
  • Pick #’s 5 and 7, the New York Giants. Daniel Jones is in peril, but I doubt the team will abandon him that quickly. Not when these two picks are rich enough to bring in the likes of Evan Neal and Sauce Gardner at two areas of critical need. An early QB pick by the Giants would surprise me just as much as one by the Panthers.
  • Pick #8, the Atlanta Falcons. They have Marcus Mariota, which is sort of like having Mitch Trubisky: someone who projects as a competent placeholder with upside, but is probably not the long term answer. A QB makes sense from that perspective. But #8 is rarified air for anyone in this class, and the Falcons also have desperate needs at positions they will have trouble filling later on. I see them targeting a premier Edge Rusher, first and foremost; maybe a DT like Jordan Davis or Devonte Wyatt; or else a CB like Gardner or Stingley if those options all fall through. The Falcons at #18 would be much more likely to pick a QB than the Falcons at #8. They will be in the “trade back into the late 1st” sweepstakes instead.
  • Pick #9, the Seattle Seahawks. I thought Seattle was our most likely competition, but the high quality SB Nation fan site Field Gulls sees OT, Edge, and CB as the main targets. They would know. And Pete Carroll seems to agree, at least with regard to the primary need for an Edge Rusher. But I have mentioned Edge an awful lot… Who will be left at #9?

This class features Aidan Hutchinson, Trayvon Walker, Kayvon Thibodeaux, and Jermain Jermaine Johnson at the top of that group. Will all four be gone by Pick #9? After that, there’s a gap to George Karlaftis, who will be high on some teams’ board and low on others because of his unusual style. I kind of like his fit in Seattle, so let’s say he is also in that band. After Karlaftis, however, you run into to a major talent gulf until the fringe-1st talents like Arnold Ebiketie and Boye Mafe come into play; and both of those could easily be gone by Seattle’s next two picks at #40 and 41. In other words, the Seahawks face a lot of pressure to pick that last of the Big 4/5 Edge Rushers at Pick #9, and if none are available they ahould have irresistible temptations because some other top talent would have fallen. Finally, take note that those two picks at #40 and 41 fall in the exact range where we expect the back end of this year’s Big 5 QB’s to go. Put me in that war room and I’d much rather have Johnson/Karlaftis plus Howell/Ridder/Corral, than Malik Willis and no pass rusher at all until Round 3.

  • Pick #11, the Washington Commanders. I view Carson Wentz as a decent enough QB between the sidelines; he’s just a divisive problem in the locker room because he can’t keep his religion to himself. That marks him out as another placeholder rather than a long term solution. A quarterback makes sense on the surface, but not if you dig any deeper. The Washington fan site I most respect lists WR as the clear #1 priority, followed by TE (irrelevant in Round 1), ILB, FS, and IOL. Only then do they get to QB. And if the Commanders did pick a QB, I see Washington looking for stability rather than betting on upside; a Kenny Pickett or Desmond Ridder type who would ooze calm and leadership from the start.
  • Pick #’s 15 and 18, the Philadelphia Eagles. Jalen Hurts hasn’t gotten his full chance yet, and Malik Willis offers the same general profile that Hurts did – with higher highs and lower lows. Wouldn’t that push the Eagles away from Malik Willis? If they’re willing to give up on a developmental guy like Hurts because he needs too long, what are the odds they will stick with Willis long enough to start glimpsing his maturity? On top of that, when I go back to the fan site well, I see the Eagles focusing on the top WR’s, and a top DT to be Fletcher Cox’s heir. Both Jordan Davis and Devonte Wyatt make more sense here than any QB, with Williams/Wilson/Olave/London as obvious choices for the other pick. The Eagles should, and In this scenario will, ride with Hurts for another year and then plumb the QB pool of 2023 if they need to.
  • Pick #16, the New Orleans Saints. The Saints have Jameis Winston at QB, signed through 2023. That ought to be boom-or-bust enough for anyone. Would Willis be their guy even if they did target a QB? Matt Corral seems to fit this squad best. He gives off a vague Drew Brees Lite vibe with his size, quick release, and fiery, combative approach to the game. The Saints are also in desperate need of some quality WR’s, and this is just about where the run on those will be hitting its stride. But it’s a lot close. This is the team to jump if you must trade up to avoid living in your fears. But who originated that line…? Oh yeah. Tomlin. The Steelers may well stick at #20, and could easily get their target if they do.

Whew. I hate talking about other teams. The point is simply this: All of those teams might pick Malik Willis, but I don’t see any of them waiting with bated breath. He would be no more than “fair value” for every one, and much less of a draft day steal than several other players they should have a shot at. So I repeat: 50/50 odds on Willis lasting all the way to the Steelers pick at 1:20.

Also Considered: If Willis isn’t there, I see the team targeting CB Andrew Booth, and freak fallers such as SAF Kyle Hamilton or DT Jordan Davis (assuming he can be a 3-down player, otherwise no). In the worst case scenario I would predict SAF Lewis Cine unless Coach Tomlin was willing to pound the table for Ridder, Corral, or Howell at the level described above. Leaving the QB pick to Colbert’s successor, in a stronger QB year, would just make too much sense.

2:20 (#52 overall) – SAFETY JAQUAN BRISKER, PENN STATE

This is a pretty easy spot because things narrow down to only two main options now that QB is off the board: either the right Safety, or the right Wide Receiver. The preferred options at Safety would be:

  • SAF Lewis Cine;
  • SAF Jaquan Brisker; and
  • SAF Dax Hill.

I expect one of those three to fall to 2:20, and if they don’t we will certainly see:

  • WR Jahan Dotson;
  • WR Skyy Moore;
  • WR George Pickens;
  • WR Treylon Burks; or
  • WR Christian Watson.

I actually think the team would prefer a WR here, but the word on the street suggests a huge run on WR’s in the late 1st and early 2nd rounds. They may all be gone. I could add John Metchie to the list of targets, but he is coming off an ACL and the Steelers tend to hesitate about injuries more than other teams. The options at Safety will only benefit from the run on WR’s, so I am not concerned that all 8 of the men on my list will be gone. I buy into the forecasted run on WR’s and thus will go with the defender.

FWIW, I do not see the 1-year re-signing of Terrell Edmunds as an impediment to picking a Safety at this spot. The opposite, if anything. The bigger issue lies in the fact that Pittsburgh has not been chasing the Safeties for closer study. They’ve met with Kyle Hamilton, a likely Top 5-10 selection. They’ve met with Cincinnati’s Bryan Cook, who could be in play for 2:20 in the same fallback way as John Metchie. And they’ve met with two Day 3 guys. That doesn’t gibe with Pittsburgh’s normal approach to the positions they intend to target. They haven’t formally met with Brisker, Cine, or Hill to the best of my knowledge. But they have enough contact through pro day attendance and the like for the pick to add up.

Brisker is the most likely to be available; is a fine player at a position of want; is a wonderful athlete; and will only get a boost from his Monroeville origins. I worry a bit about how long it will take him to understand an NFL defense, but between Minkah and Edmunds he should have however long it takes. Thus he is my prediction for the pick at 2:20.

Also considered: the named WR’s and SAF’s, CB Roger McCreary, OT Daniel Faalale, EDGE David Ojabo, and ILB Quay Walker.

PICK 3:20 (#84 overall) – SLOT DB MARCUS JONES, HOUSTON

If Round 2 was easy, Round 3 is the opposite. My Round 1 pick was a QB who will only pan out (or not) after a couple of years on the bench. My Round 2 Safety will provide immediate benefits, but only in sub packages and on special teams, because it’s hard to see a rookie beating out Edmunds. So I would really prefer to add an impact player, preferably on the offensive side of the ball, and ideally at WR because that is the biggest hole.

But the darned board won’t cooperate! This WR class is extremely deep from the mid-1st into the late-2nd, and again from the early-4th through the early 5th. But there seems to be a real dip in between those two clusters, which unfortunately coincides with Pittsburgh’s Round 3 selection. My primary targets are Alec Pierce and Jalen Tolbert, both of whom should by rights be gone. The reports on Romeo Doubs’ drop problem cooled my ardor for him in this round. The OT class, which would be my second choice by position, has the same problem; a dead zone in the mid- to late-3rd. Could I justify picking a receiving TE on the theory that he’d help the running game while being “almost” as good as a WR from the weaponry point of view? Maybe. Jelani Woods could fit that description. But that’s kind of scraping at the barrel, isn’t it? Putting position over BPA?

The Round 3 talent clusters densely around a lot of good ILB’s, some EDGE prospects, and a number of Round 2 CB talents with some specific flaw. After a great deal more angst than any mock deserves, I turned to the list of team meetings for some indication of where the Steelers might be focused. Why decide on my own when I can let the team suggest a few clues? Here’s the list of options with the no-meeting names crossed off:

  • OT Max Mitchell, Louisiana [informal mtg.]
  • OT Nicholas Petit-Frere, Ohio State
  • OT Thayer Munford, Ohio State
  • IOL Ed Ingram, LSU [mtg. at Combine]
  • IOL Cade Mays, Tennessee [mtg. at Combine]
  • IOL Lecitus Smith, Va. Tech. [mtg. at Combine]
  • IOL Chasen Hines, LSU [mtg. at Combine]
  • TE Jelani Woods, Virginia
  • WR Romeo Doubs, Nevada [mtg. at Senior Bowl]
  • EDGE Drake Jackson, USC
  • EDGE Dominique Robinson, Miami (OH) [mtg. at Combine]
  • ILB Troy Anderson, Montana
  • ILB Darrian Beavers [mtg. at Sr Bowl and Combine]
  • ILB Leo Chenal, Wisconsin [mtg. at Combine]
  • ILB Chad Muma, Wyoming [mtg. at Senior Bowl & Combine]
  • CB Coby Bryant, Cincinnati [mtg. at Senior Bowl & Combine]
  • CB Marcus Jones, Houston [mtg. at Combine & Visit]
  • CB Damarri Mathis, Pittsburgh [Local, so mtg. can be implied]
  • CB Josh Williams, Fayetteville St. [mtg. at Combine]

One senses a pattern here. IOL, ILB and CB dominate the conversation, and it isn’t even close.

IOL went down in priority with all the free agency additions. Pittsburgh could use an elite player at either Center or Guard, but probably not a merely-useful body who’d be little more than depth to compete with Kevin Dotson and Kendrick Green. Not that they don’t deserve some competition… Let’s call IOL down, but not out.

Six weeks ago I would have leapt without thinking for one of those ILB’s, but things have changed. And all those meetings took place before the team added Myles Jack. Down, but not out once again.

TBH, Dominique Robinson would be the pick if I was the GM. Too much of this team’s defense runs through the pressure that gets applied by T.J. Watt and his counterpart. Alex Highsmith is a good one, but there really ought to be a rotation. Alas, but I am not the GM in real life, and this is a predictive mock. The meetings list makes Edge Rushers look like a lower priority in and around Round 3.

That leaves the group of Corners. Here are the scouting profiles from our Big Board:

CB Coby Bryant, Cincinnati. (Senior). 6’1⅜”, 191 lbs. with 30½” arms and 9⅛” hands. [Mtg. at Senior Bowl, Combine] A very well schooled CB with NFL-average athletic skills, Bryant played (and held up) under extreme pressure in 2021 because Sauce Gardner was on the other side. He will be beaten from time to time by superior NFL talent, but he won’t lose on his own, none of it will be cheap, and he can be trusted to play within the larger defense at all times. Fundamentally sound and solid. Excellent ball skills. A poor tackler but a willing one, which suggests he will be able to improve. Owen Straley’s gif-supported Depot scouting report ends with a strong Round 2 grade for “one of my favorite prospects for the Steelers to look at on Day 2.” The NFL.com scouting profile suggests that he might do best in a zone-oriented team because that would play to his technical and intellectual strengths. This gif-supported, Patriots-oriented scouting report projects Bryant as a Round 2 talent who is limited to being a very good, and high-floor outside Corner.
CB Marcus Jones, Houston. (Senior). 5’8”, 174 lbs. with equally short 28⅞” arms and 8⅞” hands. Turns 24 as a rookie. [Mtg. at Combine, VISIT] My B&G fly on the wall overheard this at a recent meeting of Cornerbacks Anonymous: “Hi. My name is Marcus Jones, Slot Corner, and Mike Hilton is my hero, role model, and goal in life. Can I borrow some glass to chew instead of this cheap assed coffee?” He plays with top level violence and ferocity despite the size, and the team could do much, much worse. Jonathan Heitritter’s gif-supported Depot scouting report ends with a higher-than-average Round 2 grade after adding Jones’ dynamic ability as a return specialist to his ideal fit as a potential Nickel Back. Lance Zierlein’s NFL.com scouting profile concurs with that grade, calling Jones “a twitchy, undersized slot cornerback with playmaking traits and game-changing return talent.” He may be only a slot-Corner, but he may well turn out to be a dominant one. Double shoulder surgery knocks him back by a little, but he says he will be ready for training camp so it isn’t by much.
CB Damarri Mathis, Pitt. (RS Senior). 5’10⅝”, 197 lbs. with 31¾” arms and 8¼” hands. 23 years old. Sat out the 2022 Covid year. A developmental cover-Safety with solid skills who put up extraordinary numbers during his pro day testing, good enough to earn a top 3% athletic score. This has sent a lot of people scurrying back to the tape, because the early descriptions all questioned his speed, burst, and overall athleticism, which were the very areas he excelled at in shorts. Projects as a fine special teamer no matter what. Supposed to be a good tackler, with good ball skills, and a good enough football IQ, but known for panicking and getting very grabby when a route runs deep. The NFL.com scouting profile sees him as a good Nickel DB player similar to what Tre Norwood now supplies. The PFN scouting profile believes that “no cornerback has helped his stock more in the 2022 offseason than Mathis,” and now considers him “easily worth a Day 2 pick based on his tape and testing. His elite athletic makeup and steely physicality would be maximized in a press-heavy scheme, but he has the traits to become a relatively scheme-versatile starter on the boundary.” Tyler Wise’s gif-supported Depot scouting report confirms Mathis as “an intriguing prospect who will fit in an NFL defense that runs a man-heavy scheme” so long as he can “clean up his footwork technique and grabbiness.”
CB Josh Williams, Fayetteville St. (Senior). 6’2½”, 193 lbs. with 32¼” arms and 9¼” hands. [Mtg. at Combine] A small school titan with ideal measurements, he projects as a developmental outside CB prospect for the NFL. He’s got the measurements you want, and should be all but guaranteed as a special teams ace. But invincible against obscure D-II opponents doesn’t always translate 29 steps up the ladder to NFL competition. Lance Zierlein’s NFL.com scouting profile offers a Round 2-ish grade, while acknowledging that “traits-based cornerbacks from smaller schools can be very hit or miss.” Owen Straley’s gif-supported Depot scouting report ends with a Round 3 grade for a “CB2 who can be an immediate contributor on special teams.”

Okay. I like all four of those prospects. There’s a minor argument that CB would essentially be a double-dip on “defensive backs”… but come on. The two positions don’t overlap that much. The real question is whether a need remains at Corner even though I’ve added a quality Safety to the roster.

I view the Steelers’ CB room as follows: Cam Sutton is a CB2 with good versatility, but a slight lack of oomph in the slot and size on the outside. Akhello Witherspoon and Levi Wallace are CB2’s who only fit well on the boundary. James Pierre is a CB3 with upside, who as yet to arrive. And both Arthur Maulet and Tre Norwood are backup-quality Slot guys. It’s not a bad room. There’s a lot of depth. It’s just lacking in star power. This is why I keep insisting that Andrew Booth, and maybe even Trent McDuffie, must be viewed as viable targets in Round 1. They project as true CB1’s who would instantly turn “okay but deep” into “strong and also deep.” Major bang for the buck.

The same isn’t true down here in Round 3.

First step: I will cross off Coby Bryant because I view him as a CB2 prospect with an extremely high floor. More of the same is not what we need. Williams is tougher. He fits the What The Steelers Look For In Drafting Cornerbacks profile with just a single miss for a test he didn’t do, and he has real CB1 potential; it’s just a few years away because of how much he needs to learn, and how rocky that road is likely to be. Let’s put him on the back burner.

Next up: Damarri Mathis and Marcus Jones. Aha! Now we are cooking with gas. Here’s a pair of prospects who could help in both the long and the short term. Pittsburgh has a deep room of outside Corners, but the Nickel/Slot specialist could definitely be improved. Mathis profiles as a more athletic but less developed version of Cam Sutton; someone who could excel in the slot, but also slide outside to the boundary as needed. Versatility is a big deal. Marcus Jones is more of a specialist. He is a pure Nickel/Slot defender, with exceptional talent over a relatively narrow set of tasks.

Yes, age is an issue, but both men get hit with that flag to some extent. Mathis fits the Kozora Factors, while Jones fails on account of his miniscule size. Jones has better tape, can say that the shoulders are well and truly fixed, and can discount the size issue by pointing to Mike Hilton. Mathis is local, which means he’s well known to the F.O. and could have met the Steelers brass with no one being the wiser. Jones has met with the team, including a formal visit.

It’s a close call, but I will go with Marcus Jones. Mike Hilton 2.0, with slicker coverage skills, would really help this defense.

Also Considered: CB Damarri Mathis; CB Josh Williams; CB Coby Bryant; Edge Dominique Robinson; IOL Ed Ingram; IOL Cade Mays; IOL Lecitus Smith; and IOL Chasen Hines. Tearful goodbyes waved at all those wonderful ILB’s.

PICK 4:33 (#138 overall) – WIDE RECEIVER BO MELTON, RUTGERS

This is the easiest pick of the draft. I have painted myself into a corner with the first three picks, and now have no choice but to get the best available WR. But as I said above, the limited Round 3 options blossom into an array of possibilities here at the fringe between Round 4 and 5. Two young men in this band also meet every feature in Alex Kozora’s Wide Receiver study:

WR Bo Melton, Rutgers. (Senior). 5’11”, 189 lbs. with 31¼” arms and 9” hands. A tricky player to evaluate because he never had a QB at the other end to rely on, Melton has excellent 4.34 speed and good agility (92nd percentile athletic score held back by a lack of height and weight). Multiyear team captain. Good special teams gunner as well as a punt and kick returner. Wesley Cantliffe’s gif-supported Depot scouting report describes him as a poor man’s Curtis Samuel, with great potential who still needs to learn his craft as a route runner despite lots of college experience, and may have WR/RB flexibility for gadget plays. Intriguingly, Lance Zierlein’s NFL.com scouting profile agrees on that film grade but also notes that (a) “he doesn’t appear to have the vertical burst of a downfield weapon,” which the testing disproved, and (b) “his production was clearly hampered by QB play.” Taken together, those points suggest that Melton may be your classic sleeper who will put up better results in the NFL than he ever did in college. “Just call Bo Melton ‘Terry McLaurin, Jr.’” says this gif-supported, Washington-oriented scouting profile; or at least McLaurin minus 20 important pounds. Hit every box on Alex Kozora’s “What The Steelers Look For” study.
WR Jalen “Speedy” Nailor, Mich. St. (RS Junior). 5’11¼”, 186 lbs. with 9¼” hands. Start your research by looking at a combination of Nailor’s intriguing, Top 20% athletic testing (here is a companion analysis) with the story told by Tom Mead’s superior and gif-supported Depot scouting profile, which neatly describes a very sudden football player who does almost everything better than ‘well’ but doesn’t have a defining characteristic to rely on. It’s the subtle things that matter in Nailor’s game, like the instant start/stop/start ability, the sharp and effective cuts, and the high IQ that shows up in the timely blocks. He’s not a haymaker right, or a dominating hook, or a flashy inside uppercut; he’s that deadly sharp jab on the nose that can dominate a bout even when it won’t end one. The downsides come down to play strength and injuries. He can be knocked around and off his routes. And he lost 5 games to a hand injury in 2021; played only 7 games in 2020 because of Covid’s effects; lost all but four games in 2019 to a broken foot; and hurt a “lower leg” in 2018 (ankle?). None of that is connected, but it does create some smoke. This goes to a good March scouting profile that ends with a Round 7 grade out of concerns that big NFL defenders will be able to nullify his short area quickness; a concern that both AB and Diontae Johnson refute imho. The PFN scouting profile is another must-read, in part for the entire section on “execution beyond the physical traits.” Lance Zierlein’s NFL.com scouting profile ends in something like an early Day 3 grade by taking a Round 2 description and then discounting it because “he’s just not very durable.” Hit every box on Alex Kozora’s “What The Steelers Look For” study.

Flip a coin, and… Bo Melton it is.

Also Considered: No one. I needed a WR. Didn’t I just say that? Okay, okay. Add in Kevin Austin Jr. and Khalil Shaker, both of whom missed the “what to look for list” in just one category. And Northern Iowa’s Isaiah Weston as a pure height/weight/speed guy. And Danny Gray from SMU, because he’s underrated.

PICK 6:29 (#208 overall) – EDGE/ILB JEREMIAH MOON, FLORIDA

Back to the meetings list for some idea of what positions the team might be targeting in this band. First off, the guys I have rated as Round 5 talents. Could they fall all the way to a compensatory pick at the end of Round 6? Probably not, but I’d certainly consider every one if he somehow did.

  • DT/NT Neil Farrell, LSU [mtg. at Combine]
  • DT Thomas Booker, Stanford [mtg. at Combine]
  • DT John Ridgeway, Arkansas [mtg. at Combine]
  • EDGE Jeffrey Gunter, Coastal Carolina [mtg. at Combine]
  • ILB Damone Clark, LSU [draft and stash a Round 2 talent while he heals on a redshirt year?]
  • RB Tyler Badie, Missouri [mtg. at Senior Bowl and Combine]
  • WR None. Ouch. I was serious about doubling up

Consider this my notice that weird things happen, and I think it’s fair to hope down here on Day 3. But it probably isn’t fair to predict so let me look at the targets with Round 6 grades:

  • TE Chase Allen, Iowa State [mtg. at Combine]
  • TE Cole Turner, Nevada [mtg. at Combine]
  • EDGE/ILB Jeremiah Moon [mtg. at Combine]

Hell, this isn’t even close. I almost bucked the team meetings pattern for both an ILB and an EDGE back in the middle rounds. Now you’re going to include a prospect who might be both? Done.

6:01 EDGE/ILB Jeremiah Moon, Florida. (Senior). 6’4⅝”, 249 lbs. with very long 35” arms and 10⅛” hands. [Mtg. at Combine] A developmental pass rusher with great length, speed, and other athletic traits. Boasts an easy Top 10% athletic score held down only by a terrible 20 yard shuttle –  which could show limitations on his coverage ability in space. Only a Buck ILB, not a Mack. The NFL.com scouting profile notes that he is “praised for his high character and preparedness” over and above the physical potential. Exceptional inside spin move. Development has been hampered by season-ending injuries in 2016 (thumb), 2019 (foot), and 2020 (the other foot). Jonathan Heitritter’s gif-supported Depot scouting report ends in a Round 6 grade that would be higher if not for his injury problems. JH particularly likes the flexibility to move inside too, and notes that Coach “Brian Flores has excelled with longer, larger off-ball LB’s in the past.” This TDN scouting profile agrees on a Round 6 grade, calling Moon “a reactive player that doesn’t impress with his ability to sharply process and respond.” The Bleacher Report scouting profile emphasizes the “odd combination of skills” that leaves him with “no clear home in the NFL” at either Edge or ILB.

I don’t know where Moon will end up, but it’s clear that he needs one thing more than all else: good coaching and a chance to really learn his craft. Pittsburgh can offer that coaching, and could use him at either position. Or at both, if he turns out to be more of an Arthur Moats swing guy. Sounds like a perfect fit to me, especially with that team meeting as a sweetener.

Also Considered: See above, and also any superior talent at RB, WR, or O-Line.

PICK 7:04 (#225 overall) – A traitsy Tackle such as… OT DEVIN COCHRAN, GEORGIA TECH

I’m just not comfortable with the depth at Tackle, and this part of the board includes some totally raw prospects with freaky traits. Let’s forget the meetings for once. I predict a draft-and-stash developmental pick for the offensive line, quite possibly one of these:

T Devin Cochran, Ga. Tech. (RS Senior). 6’6⅞”, 308 lbs. with long 35½” arms and 10⅛” hands. Good experience against top competition, with very good length. The issues all come down to being tall as well as long, playing high, and losing on leverage. Fix that basic issue and many other things will start to really work.
T Jean Delance, Florida. (RS Senior). 6’3⅞”, 296 lbs. with exceptional 36½” arms and 10⅛” hands. Another player whose stock shot up with a dominant series of Shrine Bowl practices, the obvious question mark comes from his lack of heft. Excellent hand fighting skills build on those apelike arms compensated well in college, but can that carry over to the NFL? Projects better to an outside zone scheme that values mobility and technique (his strengths) over straightforward power. Here is a post-Shrine Bowl interview with TDN. The gif-supported Depot scouting report by Jonathan Heitritter admires the “rare length,… ability to engage and land his punches early,… [and] adequate athleticism and movement skills to be used on the move and mirror pass rushers.” The flaws go to a significant need for pure power, a tendency to lunge, and often a failure to sustain his blocks.
T Kellen Diesch, Ariz. St. (RS Senior). 6’7⅛”, 301 lbs. with short 32¼” arms and 9½” hands. He’s long enough despite the weirdly short arms, and he’s decently mobile, but has only an average anchor and overall level of strength. A developmental Tackle best suited for an outside zone team. This nicely detailed April scouting profile from a Raiders POV ends with a Round 6 grade.
T Bamidele “Bam” Olaseni, Utah. (Senior). 6’7”, 348 lbs. with orangutanish 36½” arms and 9⅞” hands. His wingspan would be the biggest in the NFL at 88⅜”! Comes from London, England. That’s a lot to get around, but there are real gaps in his game beyond the astonishing length. This January scouting profile likes the strength too, but worries that he is “not explosive in any aspect,… bends at the waist, loses leverage, and also has a tendency to lunge and lean too far when flustered.” Devin Jackson’s gif-supported Depot scouting report describes Olaseni as someone whose “ceiling is a starting left tackle who spends his first season or two on a practice squad,” and ends in a Round 4 grade despite a projection that he might be there in Round 6.
T/G Andrew Stueber, Mich. (RS Senior). 6’6”, 327 lbs. with long 34⅛” arms and 10⅛” hands. Uses his length and strength well to compensate for some lack of mobility, due in part to a 2019 ACL tear. An old school, brawling, people-moving RT who should consider the benefits of adding Guard play versatility to his repertoire. The Bleacher Report scouting profile by Brandon Thorn ends with a Round 5 grade based on the judgment that “Stueber will need to move inside in the NFL due to limited range at tackle that hinders his ability to protect the corner and poor lateral quickness to redirect against inside counters and movement across his face. He also needs to play with better pad level and hand placement.” This post-Senior Bowl scouting profile ends in a Round 4-5 grade, after noting that Stueber exceeded expectations by showing a sophisticated understanding of several different pass rush moves. The TDN scouting profile ends with a Round 4 grade, loving the “active and accurate hands,” but questioning the ability to move inside. Lance Zierlein’s NFL.com scouting profile offers this interesting, if lukewarm summary: “He’s built for power and gap run schemes but is more of a neutralizer than finisher.” Tom Mead’s gif-supported Depot scouting report could also be called lukewarm, ending with a Round 6 grade for a T/G who “would benefit from a year to improve” and compares to the sort of prospect that might “carve out a career as a part time starter.”
T Matt Waletzko, N. Dak. (Senior). 6’6⅞”, 310 lbs. with loooong 35⅛” arms and 10⅛” hands. This scouting profile from the well respected Brandon Thorn loves the length, but sees so many issues with his contact balance, play strength, and technique that Waletzko may be undraftable. The PFN scouting profile sees a developmental prospect with rare traits, but enough flaws to drop him down toward the bottom half of Day 3.

All of those prospects could go anywhere from late in Round 4 to the end of Round 7. I can’t assume that any particular name on the list will fall this far; but any one of them? That’s pretty reasonable. I list Cochran as the pick, but only because he’s the first one up alphabetically and this format requires a name. The real pick is, “whichever one of the group happens to be available.”

Also Considered: A likely RB, but I’d prefer to address the depth at Tackle if there is any way to do it. Veteran backup RB’s can be found in free agency, and the combination of Snell and McFarland isn’t “bad” so much as “very, very meh.”

PICK 7:20 (#241 overall) – WR DEVEN THOMPKINS, UTAH STATE

Why? Just to make sure that everyone gets to see one of my favorite Big Board entries:

WR Deven Thompkins, Utah St. (RS Senior). 5’6⅞”, 167 lbs. with 30½” arms and 8¾” hands. Grade dropped from the Round 4 suggested in Jonathan Heitritter’s gif-supported Depot scouting report to “barely draftable” on the basis of pure, unadulterated Sizeism. As JH writes, the tape says “dynamic weapon”, but the “measurables say that Thompkins shouldn’t be able to be an impactful player at the next level due to his lack of size, length, and low BMI.” Yes, he runs and leaps like a deer. But it’s a wee little meal-for-two roebuck, not a freezer-filling elk or whitetail, and your humble author admits to his prejudice.

Sorry Jon. I take your word for it that he’s a special talent who’s worth a long shot bet. But I’ve seen this team burned on too many Mini-Human Super Balls over the years. Down here at the end of the draft? Sure. Your grade makes him a bargain, so why not? But no earlier. Besides, I kind of like getting in the last word.

There’s also this more genuine motive: I waited until Round 4 for a WR even though that would be the quickest and easiest way to help the Steelers’ floundering offense. Double dipping with an unusual but very talented guy here at the end of the draft will provide one more bite at the apple on that front. Nor would it surprise me to see as many as three UDFA receivers picked up on the exact same theory.

CONCLUSION

  • PICK 1:20 – QB Malik Willis, Liberty
  • PICK 2:20 (#52 overall) – SAF Jaquan Brisker, Penn State
  • PICK 3:20 (#84 overall) – SLOT CB Marcus Jones, Houston
  • PICK 4:33 (#138 overall) – WR Bo Melton, Rutgers
  • PICK 6:29 (#208 overall) – EDGE/ILB Jeremiah Moon, Florida
  • PICK 7:04 (#225 overall) – [O-Line option such as] OT Devin Cochran, Georgia Tech
  • PICK 7:20 (#241 overall) – WR Deven Thompkins, Utah State

That’s all folks. See you on Thursday night!

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